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ESA and Chinese astronauts train together
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer (left) with Chinese colleagues. © ESA

ESA and Chinese astronauts train together

The ultimate goal is to establish a long-term cooperation between Europe and China and for European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts to fly on China’s space station.

European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer joined 16 Chinese astronauts earlier this month for nine days of sea survival training off China’s coastal city of Yantai. The course was organised by the Astronaut Center of China in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport’s Beihai Rescue Bureau.

The ultimate goal is for ESA to establish a long-term cooperation with China and for ESA astronauts to fly on China’s space station.

It was the first time that other astronauts had joined their Chinese counterparts in sea survival training. Returning from space, astronauts need to be prepared for any eventuality – including landing in water.

Working in groups of three, the astronauts donned pressure suits and entered a mock Shenzhou capsule that was then released into the sea. The astronauts had to swap their flightsuits for insulation and buoyancy suits before jumping into inflatable boats. They then practised rescue procedures with both a ship and a helicopter.

Accompanying Samantha and Matthias were an ESA flight surgeon and training specialist to gain insights into the different cultural nuances and approaches.

While this is the first time ESA astronauts have trained in China, it is not the first collaboration. Last year, Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu joined ESA’s caving course in Sardinia to experience an extreme environment as part of a multicultural crew. 

Both activities stem from the 2015 agreement to boost collaboration between ESA and the China Manned Space Agency, with the goal of flying European astronauts on the Chinese space station from 2022.

In the meantime, other training opportunities and joint activities are in the pipeline to get to know each other better.

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